As the questions pose in the sidebar, I want to examine an area of our lives that is intensely personal. Our thoughts are ultimately the most intimate and personal aspect of who we are.
Firstly, let me get it out on the table, I believe the Bible speaks very specifically about the importance and need for our thoughts to be directed and led by the Word AND Spirit of God. Also, I believe that God and God alone also knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts.
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:11~13 NIV.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23~24 NIV
As we examine who we are, we see that the Bible refers to our hearts. This is not refering to the organ that pumps blood throughout our bodies but rather it is used to describe the essence or character we are. The part of us that has attitude and intent.
So, what part do our thoughts play in developing, influencing and forming our character or heart? Are our thoughts just a consequence of the random firing of neurons in our brain? Are our thoughts able to be controlled? Should we even attempt to control our thinking? Does the control and discipline in our thinking diminish us, or in some way stifle our creativity?
Just a couple more statements from the Bible before we examine this further. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1~2 NASB
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' " Matthew 15:11~12 also a parallel passage in Mark 7:14~22
So where do the words we speak come from? The Bible tells us they come from the heart and also that our hearts are wicked and the source of evil. It is our un-redeemed nature that prompts many of our thoughts. As these thoughts are entertained, developed, and given time and place to grow they will sooner or later also come out of our mouths and influence our actions and re-actions.
This little diagram illustrates the progression of thoughts or feelings, left to run their course without the correction and application of truth.
James writing to the early Christians makes it very clear that our tongue has immense power despite being only a small part of the body. He also questions how both sweet and bitter water (e.g. life words vs death words) can come from the same mouth and even suggests that one that can control his/her tongue is a perfect man/woman.
The solution to this problem is also given in the Bible. Our minds and hearts have to be renewed. This occurs by allowing God's word to cleanse and renew us. Thus our first step in dealing with this problem is that we need to get access to God's word. We need to spend time reading it, hearing it, thinking about it, studying it, so that our thoughts can begin to come into obedience with God's will and purpose.
Our actions only occur after our mind has thought about and purposed the action. On the other hand our re-actions are our responses to the stimuli we experience. However, even our re-actions are greatly influenced by our previous training and thinking. That is why many jobs and professions insist upon extensive training and role playing to develop the autonomous reactionary part of our brains and bodies.
Without labouring the point further, it is therefore entirely reasonable to make the statement "thoughts have consequences".
Yet we so often live our lives carelessly, allowing the first thing that enters our thoughts to quickly be delivered by our tongue to the world around us. Even more devastating in the long term, is what happens to our psyche or character if we continually dwell upon and think about something in a manner that is inappropriate vis-a-vis what God instructs us in the Bible. Ultimately not in alignment with the truth. e.g. we choose to hold a grudge and look for opportunities to "get even" or "pay back". The Bible makes it clear we are to forgive and to return good to those who have done us wrong.
For us to be able to do this, we must firstly start thinking correctly, this will then lead us to start saying things correctly and then behaving correctly. Correct from God's perspective - not from the perspective of our culture or what the media and Hollywood may portray - often by humorous means but ultimately incorrect responses to typical life events.
Where do we get our input from? Heard the phrase "garbage in - garbage out?" This applies just as much to our minds as it does to a computer database. The Bible has some other instruction on these issues:
Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Gal 6:6~8 NIV.
Here we see that our sowing - likened to our thinking - will reap consequences.
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame. 1 Cor 15:33~34
Here we see that those we spend time with, hang around with, ultimately influence what kind of person we become.
RatherRejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:4~9
The Bible provides a lot of instruction to us about how we should live - it is effectively the "owner's manual" written by the manufacturer. It is in our human nature to think we know best, that we have the ability to know good from evil, but ever since the original fall of Adam and Eve, mankind has repeatedly demonstrated that left to our own ways we simply destroy ourselves and those around us.
Rather, we need to allow
.... by the washing with water through the word.....(see Eph 5:25~27)
God's word to cleanse our minds and thinking so we can become everything he has created and called us to be.